2009 Tour of California - Stage 8 Hors Category
The final act of the 2009 tour drama waits on the climb San Diego County's Mount
Palomar on Sunday...
A big hill comes to the Tour of
By John Summerson
There seems to be a bit of extra excitement as the cycling season cranks up
this year. No doubt the return of the 7 time Tour de France winner, Lance
Armstrong, among others, into a number of major stage races in 2009 plays a
What has me excited however is the route of the 2009 Tour of California, and
specifically the inclusion in this year’s race, for the first time, of an hors,
or beyond category climb, the most difficult hill climb classification. While
several ascents in past editions were categorized as hors, they were in reality
category 1 (the 2nd most difficult classification) hills, challenging certainly
but with not quite the level of overall difficulty a true hors climb will bring
to America’s premier stage race. Its placement in the final stage of the race
should only add to the drama.
Click on graphic for a larger image(Pdf.)
Palomar Mountain lies in the dry chaparral country of Southern California,
southeast of the town of Temecula. Like many US climbs it is unknown to many
except the locals. However this includes the returning Floyd Landis who, if his
fitness level allows him to be in contention late in the race, may have an edge
on the rest of the field here.
The climb starts out fairly tame but soon after the riders turn onto Route S6
which takes them to the top, things change dramatically. The crux stretch is an
almost 5 mile long section through multiple, hairpin switchbacks. Averaging 7-9%
and with limited site distance, the peloton will be stressed here and a rider or
small group could get away.
Originally scheduled as a mountain top finish, Palomar is now placed about
halfway through the stage so that, with a lot of riding left to do after its
ascent, it may likely be difficult for a breakaway to stay away. Regardless,
riders will have to keep this giant in mind over the first 7 stages and will
need to perform well on Palomar’s slopes in stage 8 in order to place high in
the overall classification. Even if it has no influence on the race itself it is
an opportunity for some of the World’s best cyclists to sample one of the most
difficult North American climbs.
Graphic © 2009
The use of Palomar Mountain within the Tour of California could be called a
milestone of sorts for top level American stage racing. Very similar
statistically to the standard route up the Galibier in France (after L’Alp
d’Huez and Tourmalet perhaps the most influential TdF climb), Palomar is the
most difficult climb ever used in the Tour of California.
Other European climbs with similar stats include France’s Croix de Fer and
the east side of Agnel in Italy. Comparably difficult American climbs include
the nearby Mt Baldy, Arizona’s massive Mt Graham, Nevada’s Route 156 and Owens
Valley’s (CA) South Lake.
While not of Palomar’s stature, other challenging climbs will be ridden in
this year’s race, including Tunitas Creek Road (stage 2), one of the most scenic
climbs in the US and Bonny Dune (stage 2) and Sierra Road (stage 3), the latter
becoming a staple in the Tour of CA. And while not using big climbs, the
foothills of the western Sierras will be ridden for the first time during stage
4 which may hopefully provide opportunities for the use of even more great
American climbs in future races.
Note: The route the Tour of CA will use does not include the highest
point or the maximum elevation of the climb up Palomar Mountain. The absolute
top is a dead end road to a state park, which of course would not work for a
tour unless the climb was a summit finish.
John Summerson is a cyclist who collects climbs the
way a connoisseur might collect fine art; with one difference John finds the
climbs, measures and rides them savoring the suffering and challenge of each and
then writes about them.
John is also the author of "The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) "A guide
to cycling, climbing and the most difficult hill climbs in the Unites States"
Read our review of the
For more information on the book go to the
where there are more climb profiles and a link to purchase the book.
John Summerson Climbing Articles
95th Tour de France - The Major Mountains & Climbs 1
95th Tour de
France - The Major Mountains & Climbs 2
d'Italia - Giro Climbs & Comparable USA Climbs - 1
d'Italia - Giro Climbs & Comparable USA Climbs - 2
Book Review -
The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike)
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